WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew would like to provide Pentucket families with tips and strategies for coping with stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak that has kept children at home this week.
“Now more than ever, it is crucial that we look out for the emotional well-being of our friends, families, and ourselves,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “Any change in routine can be stressful, especially for children and teens, but there are steps parents and students can take to help cope with heightened emotions associated with this disruption to our daily lives.”
Take Care of Yourself
The CDC offers the following tips for taking care of your own mental health in times of crisis:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Watch for Symptoms of Stress in your Child
Parents should watch for symptoms of heightened stress and anxiety in their children. Symptoms might include:
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
- Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
Teach and Model Stress-Prevention Strategies
Children learn from the behavior of their parents. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, there are many behaviors you can model as a parent to help your child cope with the stress of COVID-19.
- Remain calm and reassuring. Remember that how you react to situations may increase or decrease your child’s anxiety.
- Make time to talk to your child, especially if they want to talk about their concerns, fears, or questions.
- Avoid excessive blaming of others to prevent stereotyping.
- Monitor television viewing and social media use. Avoid watching news coverage that may be upsetting or developmentally inappropriate for you child. Remind your child that information they find about COVID-19 on social media may be inaccurate and based on rumors.
- Maintain as regular a routine as possible. Schedule time for learning activities and fun or relaxing activities.
- Be honest and accurate with your child about COVID-19. Share developmentally-appropriate information. Telling your child that the disease spreads from person-to-person and person-to-surface contact will help them understand the important of good personal hygiene.
- Remind your child of good personal hygiene practices and model these practices yourself. Continue with the same daily hygiene routine that you usually would, with special attention to hand-washing. Parents and children should wash their hands for 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to slowly sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) several times a day.
More information can be found at the National Association of School Psychologists website.